Electric cars aren’t boring when they’ve got 671bhp
Up until recently, ‘hybrid’ and ‘exciting’ haven’t generally been seen in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence. Carbon emissions may be low, but so have been the thrills.
Porsche’s Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid will change the most negative perception of hybrids. It has the desirably low numbers when it comes to efficiency – just 66g/km and 97.4mpg on the official cycle – but it also manages to be one of the fastest four-door cars on the market, with a crazy 0-62mph time of 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 192mph.
It’s all down to the powertrain, a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 linked to an electric motor and battery pack to deliver a thumping 671bhp, plus you have the option of charging it from the mains and whispering around for up to 31 miles on electricity alone.
On the road, with all guns blazing, Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is outrageously fast. Overtaking and motorway slip road manoeuvres are a mere toe-twitch away. Standard four-wheel drive means iron grip in the dry, and not that much less in the wet. It’s a friendly drive, with precise steering and no major handling vices.
Only two factors limit its claim to become the fastest point-to-point vehicle on the road: size and weight. You won’t enjoy its width on B-roads, and although the air suspension manages the E-Hybrid’s near-2.4 tonne weight remarkably well, you’ll never be able to forget its bulk when braking heavily or attacking an S-bend. It does wear a Porsche badge, so big performance is an expectation, but the laws of physics ultimately curtail its wieldiness and place it firmly into the luxury rather than the sports category.
Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid
Engine: 4.0-litre, V8, turbo petrol and electric motor
Power: 671bhp (total system output)
Torque: 627lb ft (total system output)
Gearbox: 8-spd dual-clutch automatic
Top speed: 192mph
CO2, tax band: 66g/km, 16%
Even so, it’s amazingly capable if it’s let loose on the right surface. An Audi A8 or Mercedes-Benz S-Class will be more comfortable, but Porsche buyers won’t mind the Panamera’s extra firmness. Despite its massive 21-inch wheels, the Panamera has an air of imperturbabilty that only really nasty bumps will question. The ride quality will see you across a continent without complaints, although the noise from the jumbo tyres on roads that are less autobahny might become a bit wearing, especially if you switch the engine out of the equation and cruise on battery power only. That’s perfectly possible on motorways, but the acceleration is relaxed and the battery will quickly lose its charge.
Much better to use the electricity for slow urban work, where the performance is more than ample and you’ll get a lot more time out of the battery. The gearbox can be a little jerky under these circumstances, which is surprising in a near-£140,000 car.
One good thing about the car’s bulk is that it brings momentum. In coasting mode it’s amazing how far you’ll go with no active drive. On a 100-mile run, you’ll have no trouble recording more than 30mpg, outstanding for something with the E-Hybrid’s performance potential.
This version of the Panamera has some model-unique displays on both the huge main infotainment screen and the driver’s instrumentation array. You’re told how hard you can put your right foot down before the V8 engine lights up, and how much electricity you’re using. Otherwise it’s a familiar Panamera landscape, with lots of room for four big adults and high-quality materials everywhere.
Although this Turbo S E-Hybrid is by far the fastest Panamera, we’d point you towards another model if you’re a driving enthusiast. Not the regular Turbo, but the V6-powered 4S: it offers the best mix of speed and handling.
If running costs are more important to you, a regular non-hybrid Turbo runs in the 37% bracket for benefit-in-kind tax, against 16% for the Turbo S E-Hybrid. But if pounds and pence are seriously important, take the non-turbo E-Hybrid. It’s a lot less expensive in the showroom than the Turbo E-Hybrid, and is better than it on both CO2 and mpg.
Break it down and there’s no real reason to buy a Turbo S E-Hybrid other than for the novelty of eyeball-squashing performance combined with non-outrageous running costs. That’s a powerful pull that never seems to wear off.